You can say that Bobby Lawson had it coming to him — shopping at Wal-Mart regularly. But in February of 1993, Bobby slipped and fell in the Garden Center of a Kentucky Wal-Mart. It was a nasty day out, with snow and rain in the forecast. Bobby tried to enter Wal-Mart through the Garden Center side, as he often did, but on this occasion he stepped on something he later said was “slick as greased lightening” and fell down, injuring himself. When he tried to get up, he noticed his clothes were covered with a black substance that seemed like potting soil. He also found a ‘wet and nasty’ piece of carboard on his knee after the fall. Lawson later sued Wal-Mart, saying that his injury was the result of the company’s negligence in keeping their store in a reasonably safe condition. After a trial in Pike County, KY, a jury found in his favor, and awarded him $2,516 for past medical expenses, and $56,573 in damages for past and future pain. This was not one of the multi-million cases recorded elsewhere in these newsflash entries, but nonetheless, Wal-Mart’s lawyers appealed the verdict. They apparently did not agree with the jury that Wal-Mart was 75% at fault in the case. In the Appeals Court, Wal-Mart tried to convince 3 judges that Bobby ran into “natural outdoor hazards” when he fell in their Garden Center, and that the danger should have been obvious to Bobby. The Appeals Court was not persuaded by Wal-Mart’s arguments, and on December 30, 1998, the judges affirmed the decision of the lower court.
Wal-Mart, which made something like $119 billion in sales in 1997, also asked the court to set aside the $56,573 award as excessive damages for Bobby’s pain and suffering. The Appeals court pointed out that Bobby had suffered “ongoing pain, swelling and weakness in his knee” since the fall. The 3 judges unanimously agreed that the damage award was not excessive. But speaking of excessive, it took Bobby Lawson nearly six years from the time of his accident to get through court with Wal-Mart. This is the kind of treatment shoppers can expect from the “customer is boss” company. For another look at the corporate culture at Wal-Mart, “check out” the following story of more danger at Wal-Mart.